Jascha Horenstein

Horenstein Conducts Rossini, Mahler & Nielsen

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The BBC's series of celebrated live recordings is a mixed bag in terms of sound quality -- certainly no cause for audophiles to rejoice -- but the selections are often quite interesting to specialists, both for their distinctive interpretations and the insights they give about their time periods. Jascha Horenstein's concert performances of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6 in A minor and Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 5, recorded in 1969 and 1971, respectively, date from the peak years when both composers' symphonies were undergoing important revivals, and something of the excitement of discovery attends these vigorous performances. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's performance of Mahler's Sixth is deliberate and somewhat slower than many contemporary recordings, but this is helpful for the sake of clarity, since many details are heard better at the slower pacing; and Horenstein's heavier tempos make the music more imposing and brooding than many brisker modern versions. Nielsen's Fifth also sounds notes of foreboding in its opening section, and outright violence in the famous side drum solo, but its second part is quite bustling and businesslike in its contrapuntal activity. Horenstein and the New Philharmonia Orchestra deliver its fugues and athletic developments with tight ensemble playing and rigorous discipline, even when the music becomes wildly tumultuous. This double-disc is filled out with Horenstein's 1957 recording of Gioachino Rossini's Semiramide Overture with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and an interview from February 1971 with Deryck Cooke; the overture is decently played but may be skipped for its rather boxy sound, though the short conversation is worth hearing for Horenstein's recollections and opinions on Nielsen.

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